Steve Nash, Antawn Jamison, and Dwight Howard... Only a few years back, that would have been a nearly impossible off-season haul, especially for a team already boasting Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Ron Artest. Unfortunately, this isn't a few years back. With the exception of Superman, the 2012 version of those players is significantly different than a few years ago, and not in a good way. And even though Dwight Howard remains the most dominant center in the game, was giving away your team's most valuable piece worth a one year rental of him? Apparently, Kupchack thinks so. Time will prove him wrong. More accurately, the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder will prove him wrong.
Read on for more bubble-bursting, purple and gold-fading, doom and gloom prophecy about the team that used to be great.
Derek Fisher, Robert Horry, Rick Fox, Devean George, Trevor Ariza, Jordan Farmar, Shannon Brown, Sasha Vujacic, Lamar Odom...these were the role players, the pieces that Phil Jackson wove together so masterfully to create his intimidating championship teams. They were all either in their primes or still developing. None of them were at the end of their careers.
However, the current Laker team has failed to learn from its championship predecessors. The best young pieces on the 2012 roster are Jordan Hill and Devin Ebanks. They have a legitimate, but rented superstar, in Dwight Howard, a still dangerous but significantly less dominant Kobe Bryant, a much slower Steve Nash, an unsuccessfully reinvented Ron Artest, a visibly declining Pau Gasol, and a softer, weaker version of Antawn Jamison fresh from the bottom-feeding Cavs.
Also, they're missing Phil Jackson. If anyone could bring a group of egotistical, established superstars together and form a highly successful and cohesive basketball team out of them, the Zen Master could have done it. Mike Brown, however, simply doesn't inspire anywhere near that kind of confidence.
All the while, the Spurs have burgeoning young assets like Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, Gary Neal, Tiago Splitter, to team with their aging Big 3. The Thunder have a roster full of young guns who are no longer inexperienced. So while the Lakers MIGHT have staked a claim to third place in the West, I don't think that's necessarily what's going to warm their hearts as they crawl into bed after a disillusioning early playoff exit. It also won't help any when Superman likely finds greener pastures after said disillusioning early playoff exit.
So, again, Lakers, congrats on grabbing the headlines. Just don't expect those headlines to be friendly in May/June 2013.